Student Research

Julia Mead

Julia Mead

Class of: 2016

Major(s): Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies

On the Emancipation of Women: Gender Formation and Women’s Activism in Czechoslovakia in the 1960s

An Honors Project for the Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies Program

Tell us about your Honors Project.

A year ago I was finishing a semester abroad in Prague. Midway through the semester I learned about the Czechoslovak Women’s Union, a country-wide women’s organization that advocated for the interests of women in the Party hierarchy. I found the history of the union to be murky. Very few people had written about it, and those who did mostly devoted just a few paragraphs to it in larger books or articles about women under communism.

My journey started in the Czech National Library, where I found a bound collection of Vlasta, the most popular women’s magazine in Czechoslovakia during the socialist era. It was also wonderful to have an excuse to spend time in the baroque Klementinum reading room in the Old Town. I had not planned to write an honors project, but the texts in Vlasta – letters to the editor, news bulletins, memos from the women’s union – were too interesting not to explore in depth.

I was surprised by what I found. In 1968, the year of the “Prague Spring” democratic reforms in Czechoslovakia, the CSWU was highly active. They undertook initiatives such as lengthening maternity leave, increasing the amount women would be paid during maternity leave, and reducing the wage gap between men and women. However, gendered activism was not limited to clinical, technocratic communications between state officials and citizens. Vlasta also functioned as a site for discussing how the socialist emancipation of women changed how both men and women experienced and expressed their genders. Many women began to work in laborious jobs that had previously been dominated by men. Dynamics in the family shifted when women began to work outside the home. The communist ideal of the “New Man” and “New Woman” existed on the level of people’s real lives and not just on the level of political propaganda.

GWS 280

GWS 280

Class of: 2011

Forty Years of Women at Bowdoin College- Fall 2011

In the fall of 2012, to commemorate forty years of women at Bowdoin College, Professor Jennifer Scanlon led a group of gender and women’s studies students through a trip through the archives, discovering and documenting Bowdoin’s rich history of coeducation.

What is Forty Years of Women at Bowdoin College about?

After a semester of research, the class put together a website of original documents, photographs, and audio- and videotaped interviews with students, faculty and staff at the College.  The site, which features almost 70 annotated documents and which garnered national attention, is organized around the themes of prehistory, the coeducation process, curriculum, athletics, extracurriculars, social life and fraternities, and the College’s Women’s Resource Center. From Bowdoin President Joshua Chamberlain’s 1871 argument for coeducation to the 1992 establishment of a major in women’s studies, and from women donning used men’s athletic uniforms to the implementation of gender neutral housing, the site reveals the myriad ways in which women students claimed a space at Bowdoin College.


Maxime Billick

Maxime Billick

Class of: 2010

Major(s): Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies

Pastel Shirts and Miniskirts: An Ethnographic Novella

In the fall of 2009, gender and women's studies major, Maxime Billick, wrote an ethnographic novella exploring the challenges that young women face when coming to college for the first time.

What was your independent project about?

With Associate Professor Kristen Ghodsee, Maxime did extensive background research on college sociality around the United States and conducted both formal and informal interviews with her peers on a diverse range of issues. Set in the fictional Branksome College, "Pastel Shirts and Miniskirts" examines the various pressures facing Belle, a first year student from Ohio, as she leaves home to begin her college education and start her life as an independent adult. The novella tactically uses the genre of fiction to explore a wide variety of feminist themes in an narrative style that will appeal to high school students preparing to make their own transitions to college life.